Shifting Outward

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Small groups can sometimes become consumeristic and inward focused.  We start asking  questions like, “what do we want to study next?” “who’s bringing the cookies next week?”  And the focus shifts inward.  The question is, How do we get off the couch and into the community and start really making a difference?  Believing that Small groups  are the purest form of the church and the church exists for the world…why have we built our lifegroup ministry to exist for the church?

Neighborhoods, like ecosystems, are a complex set of relationships among the living resources habitats and residence of an area.  It includes plants, trees, animals, fish, birds, microorganisms, water, soil, and people.

When we small groups move into living rooms in neighborhoods around our community,  we have introduced new things to those ecosystems.  I don’t know much about science, but I do know that ecosystems can be easily interrupted. If you introduce something new into an ecosystem, you, on some level, disrupt it.  on some level you change that ecosystem.

So the question we have to ask about the interruption to the ecosystem is…was the change good or not?  Has it had a positive or negative impact?

Keep in mind that…

  • NEUTRAL IS NEGATIVE.  We get in our holy huddles and pray together, study the bible, and care for each other.  But our inactivity in our community and the fact that we aren’t getting outside… with our inaction we are showing indifference to lostness.
  • POSITIVE IS POSITIVE (profound, i know).  This this is great news.  If we make a positive impact we will draw people to Christ.

What is the cost?  What is a stake if we aren’t making a positive impact in our ecosystems?

  1. Christ’s Reputation.  Matt. 5:16 “…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” God’s reputation gets a boost when we get outside of ourselves and make an impact. Jesus said, if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto myself.  All we have to do is be obedient.
  2. Our Own Obedience.  Matt 28:19-20 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  We take this as a suggestion…but it’s the great COMMISSION!
  3. Eternity. Heb. 9:27 “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment,”  We are going to have eternity to study the bible, fellowship and worship God… but we only have NOW to lead people to Christ.  Eternity is a long time.  and the judgement is final.  there is no second chance.
  4. Our Own Spiritual Formation. We wil become more like Christ when we get off the couch and live the way Jesus lived. We want to be like Jesus?  We’ve go to LIVE IT!  We are so far educated above and beyond the level of our obedience it’s disheartening. It’s time!

It’s time to shift our focus outward!  Our days are numbered…let’s not waste them.  There is too much at stake.

Listen to the entire training session from Jan. 25, click below.  3 sessions including Bill Leppo, Pete Shoger, and Jonah Easley

The Power of Spiritual Connection

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.36.00 AMTo be spiritually connected we have to develop some relationships with other believers where we can be real.  Where we can reveal ourselves and we don’t have to try to impress people or act like we have it all together.  We were designed to be together.  Bnd just showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t guarantee this will happen.  In fact if you only show up on Sunday, I guarantee this isn’t happening.  Here are four benefits for spiritual connection.

  1. CONNECT FOR HEALTH.  One of the deepest needs in life is to be understood.  We need some people that we can connect with.  Have you ever been talking to someone in a conversation and it dawns on you that you’re not really connecting? We have this deep need to connect with others.  We need people in our lives that get us. I came across this study from the Department of Health and they found that if you are disconnected from others…
    • You are two to three times more likely to die an early death.
    • You are four times more likely to suffer from emotional burnout.
    • You’re five times more likely to suffer clinical depression.
    • You’re ten times more likely to be hospitalized for emotional or mental disorder.
  2. CONNECT FOR GROWTH.  Col. 2:19 says “We are joined together in His body by His strong sinews and we grow as we get nourishment and strength from God.”  The Christian life is not just a matter of believing.  It’s also a matter of belonging. To grow, I’ve got to be connected.  We can’t grow in the Christian life alone.  If we are disconnected, we can’t grow.
  3. CONNECT FOR EFFECTIVENESS.  Eph. 2:10 says “God made us to do good works, which He planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.”  Good works here means ministry.  You were made for ministry.  You were made to make a difference.  If you’re not doing anything with your life that makes a difference in the life of someone else, you’re never going to feel significant.
  4. CONNECT FOR SUPPORT.  We’ve got to have support from each other.  If you’re disconnected there is no way you are going to be able to make it through the crisis that comes into every one of our lives.  As a believer, you’ll never have to walk through a dark valley alone.  As a believer, you’ll never have to walk through the loss of a loved one alone.  God will walk through it with you.  As a believer you’ll never have to walk through troubles by yourself because you’ll be connected to a group of believers who will walk through it with you.  Eccl. 4:10.  “If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.”

Are you connected?


Success in Small Groups

Small groups are not a “clean” or simple organism, but there are two “ingredients” that are critical for small group success and life change among the members. Purpose and Connection.

PURPOSE— clear expectations of what it means to be a member of a small group. It’s important that group members know why the group exists and why they are a committed part of it.

CONNECTION— group members show a strong perceived need for the group. Group members would feel like they were missing something critical if they missed a group meeting and small group relationships are viewed as high priority.

The definition of success for a group is “Have we made the transition beyond just meeting…to engaging in the lostness of our city for the gospel.”

Having a clear vision for success is one of the keys to keeping small group leaders focused on making disciples.  The vision for success is wrapped up into our 4g’s…Gospel, Grace, Growth, and Generosity.  To help small groups grow in these, we continually focus specifically on growing in each of these areas.  None of us have “mastered” any of them.

Small groups have three objectives which they are to continually live out: Growth, Outward Focus, and Service. We repeatedly celebrate groups who are practicing these objectives. As small group leaders affirm, love and care for the people in their small group, evidence of Growth, Outward Focus and Service become natural outcomes. But more than that, individuals, as well as groups, begin to see a path for life that will help them be more like Christ every day of their lives.